“The media landscape we operate in currently in Canada is frightening because of the mass concentration.” Media Democracy Days coordinator Sydney Ball refers to Postmedia Network’s ownership of the majority of the newspapers across Canada. She continues, “[The media landscape] is always getting a little bit more dire but … there certainly is great journalism happening, and there is great media content being produced.”
In its sixteenth year operating out of the School of Communications at SFU, Media Democracy Days continues to broaden the scope of its conversations about media and democracy, and its commitment to supporting the production of non-mainstream media. When I ask Ball for her perspective on media democracy, the concept that is the conference’s focus, she replies, “It really needs to serve the public if it’s going to be a democratic media system. That means to ask questions about who it is producing news, what stories get into news, who’s producing media and what kind of policies shape the media that we’re consuming.”
The concept of democracy is inherent to the structure of Media Democracy Days 2016. Ball says of this year’s program format, “We want inclusivity to be not an afterthought, but actually to become part of how we build the program in the first place.” Much of the programming for Media Democracy Days was shaped and determined by the Co-Lab hosted on September 15. The Co-Lab brought together people involved with different aspects of media activism with the intention of offering opportunities to individuals and groups to collaborate on public programming.
One of Ball’s aims as coordinator is to include those who are interested in media democracy, whose work is outside of the scope of traditional journalism and what is commonly thought to be media. Ball and her team issued prompts for the Co-Lab and based on the topics, they “[received] really creative responses from people that wanted to participate in our program that maybe hadn’t had the opportunities to before.” Of the program structure, Ball says, “Besides the keynote and besides the community radio events at the Inspiration Lab, the rest of our program was shaped by people that showed up to the Co-Lab. [They] either came with ideas of what they wanted to host for Media Democracy Days, or collaborated with other people they met.”
Ball and her main collaborator Stuart Poyntz, Associate Professor in the SFU School of Communications, “got excited about the possibility of having a more collaborative project, of having a lot of space for maybe people that don’t know how to get involved with media activism to get involved … as well as pick up skills.” One of the collaborations set for November 19 is between Access to Media Education Society and Cascadia Deaf Nation.The two organizations have teamed up to facilitate a workshop called “How Do We Leap?” where participants will create a collaborative art piece based on ideas of solidarity around environmental action.
This year’s program will also include workshops from CiTR 101.9FM and Vancouver Co-op Radio (100.5FM) in partnership with the Vancouver Public Library on media making and audio production, titled “Community Radio Takeover at the Inspiration Lab.” Through Media Democracy Days, CiTR and Co-op offer opportunities for those who wish to get involved with media activism, and to learn the practical skills they need to produce radio broadcasts.
Media Democracy Days is designed to include individuals and organizations with non-mainstream perspectives, with the intention of fostering an inclusive and critical media landscape. “We want to act as a platform for media activism and a place for our broad community … [to get] together to really discuss how the media does interact with democracy,” says Ball. This year’s conference includes a broader range of participants, resulting in a group that is more in keeping with Vancouver’s diverse demographic.
Independent media in Canada “is important and in place because corporate media systems don’t generally do their job of challenging power … Non-corporate media allows for other stories to be told,” says Ball. With a diverse national population comes diverse perspectives, many of which are made marginal by mainstream media. By providing communities with the tools they need to share their perspectives and by offering opportunities for interested people to connect with independent media outlets, more content will be created that challenges the corporate media status quo.
Without independent media and media activism, society runs the risk of only hearing a national narrative that places network interests before truth speaking journalism. “If you don’t have a media system that’s representative, if you don’t have a media system that’s going to challenge power, then we’re really at a detriment. People aren’t going to be able to make political choices or make choices in their communities or really understand what Canada looks like,” explains Ball.
When I say that media democracy seems more important now than ever, Ball counters, “It’s always been important. It’s never, not been important.”
Media Democracy Days will be held on November 15-16 at the Vancouver Public Library’s Inspiration Lab, and November 19 at SFU Harbour Centre. Ryan McMahon (Red Man Laughing Podcast) will deliver a keynote speech at 12pm on November 19. More information at 2016.mediademocracydays.ca.
Song of the Day: Blood on the Leaves by Kanye West
All of my regular content feels inconsequential in light of last night’s election results. The topics I had thought to cover now feel trite. Rather than shy away from today’s political conversations, I’m sharing my thoughts on Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in last night’s American presidential election.
Trump’s election is indicative of a culture of prejudice, and a culture in which individual privilege takes precedence over the needs of others. His rhetoric leading up to his election reinforced racism, misogyny, xenophobia and homophobia. He advocated for reduced rights for women, minorities, immigrants, and LGBT people. Even if his rhetoric changes now that he is president-elect – like it did last night in his temperate victory speech – that does not undo the fact that he was elected even though he ran a hate-filled campaign.
Those who voted for Trump condoned his discrimination — whether or not they personally supported it. Even those who voted ambivalently for him are complicit with the culture of white supremacy. After the campaign he ran, his election reinforces the culture of white supremacy on which America – and all colonized countries – was founded. This culture will continue perpetually so long as discrimination is condoned and white people rest on the laurels of our privilege.
What is unjust about the result of the election is that exit polls show that a majority of people of colour voted in favour of Clinton. Those who stand to be the most threatened by Trump’s presidency, those who are subject to discrimination daily, voted in highest percentages against him.
My friend Alex said articulately before the election results started to roll in, “What makes me the most mad is the false equivalency that’s being drawn between Hillary and Trump in the name of ‘unbiased’ media coverage.” Clinton’s email mismanagement was condemned with the same vigour as Trump’s hate-speech and the sexual assault accusations made against him. The media’s false equivalency condoned Trump misogynist and racist comments. In so doing, the media reinforced a culture of discrimination in America. Clinton’s email debacle and her tactic of secrecy are indicative of the mistakes of one person and her support team. All of the wrong Trump has done is indicative of an entire culture of prejudice that will continue perpetually so long as people keep saying, ‘Yeah, but she lied too.’
The force with which Clinton was condemned is indicative of sexism in America and the world, the same sexism she has had to fight every time she sought a position in a male dominated arena. I believe that if a male with Hillary Clinton’s resume had been Trump’s opposition, the forecasted blow out of the Republicans by the Democrats would have been a reality. Had Bernie Sanders won the Democratic nomination, Trump might not have won the election. Then again, perhaps I underestimate the extent to which the white middle and lower class sought political change.
Hillary Clinton was not the perfect political candidate. I would have voted for her if I was an American. However, the candidate I would have supported most enthusiastically was Bernie Sanders. I fear that some voters went into the election with a Bernie or bust mindset and voted their disapproval – by voting Trump, independent or abstaining from the vote – rather than voting their hope of continuing the progress made by Barack Obama’s policies. Some of his policies were imperfect but he sought to make change – change that could be largely undone by Trump’s Republican government.
I am saddened that the most qualified candidate in yesterday’s election was unable to crack the glass ceiling of sexism. She may not have been the perfect candidate – but has there ever been a perfect candidate or president? – but her presidency would have been an undeniably big step towards gender equality. Clinton said in her concession speech, “We have still have not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling. But some day, someone will.”
My heart breaks for all the minority groups in America and around the world who have been made to feel unsafe in the country they call home. So many people I admire are feeling dejected right now, people I turn to for words of truth and justice. Too many people who put in daily work to create a better world have been made to feel like their country doesn’t want them anymore. I am ashamed to live with my white privilege. I am ashamed that my privilege comes at the cost of the safety and security of others.
We still need Black Lives Matter because people of colour are told implicitly and explicitly that their lives do not matter. They experience racism viscerally, not as an abstract concept that exists only in Trump rally hate-speech. We still need feminism because too many women are shamed when they seek positions for which they are qualified in predominantly male fields. Too many women are assaulted, objectified and subjected to language that is meant to devalue us and undermine our personhood. This is even more true for women of colour and for trans women, who are constantly confronted with violence in action and in words.
Where does that leave us now? As a Canadian, I was powerless to influence the quantitative result of the election. I have the power to stand against injustice, to challenge white supremacy and my own white privilege. I have to listen, especially to those who are marginized, whose voices are too often silenced in mainstream media. As a writer, I have to continue to work with publications that prioritize free speech and media democracy. We have to continue to love. bell hooks said, “The practice of love is the most powerful antidote to the politics of domination.” We have to say ‘Fuck you’ to anyone who attempts to create divisions.
As Clinton said in her concession speech, “This loss hurts. But please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” We need to channel that hurt into action. We now know how far we have to go.
Song of the Day: Alright by Kendrick Lamar
Man Repeller, along with a number of other websites, has compiled a resource that includes a number of organizations to get involved with, and a number of ways to keep fighting for justice.
I’m usually slow to embrace technology updates. When Apple rolled out the extensive changes of iOS 7 in fall of 2013, I waited as long as I could before I updated my iPhone. I’m quite comfortable with the way my phone looks and operates; I’m reluctant to sacrifice this comfort for the sake of improved functionality. Thus I acted entirely out of character when I downloaded iOS 10 as soon as it was made available. It was only after I was faced with a new operating system that I remembered I didn’t much want a new operating system. Now that I have it, I figured I might as well embrace it and share my findings so no one else finds herself adrift in a sea of superfluous functions.
Press Home to Unlock
Unlike on past iOS versions, the iPhone wakes up when it senses movement. You can still wake your phone by pressing the home button but you can also wake it just by picking it up.
Apple has done away with the ‘slide to unlock’ function. In its place is ‘press home to unlock,’ wherein the user presses home to unlock the phone and inputs a passcode. You can get around this feature if you activate Touch ID for iPhone Unlock, then choose the Rest Finger to Open option. (General > Accessibility > Home Button > Rest Finger to Open) Then entering your phone is as easy as picking it up and pressing home.
While I should be in support of Touch ID for the speed with which it enables me to unlock my phone, I prefer to use the passcode to slow down the process. That way I’m less likely to check Instagram for a twenty-fifth time or read a click bait article on Snapchat.
Sliding the home screen to the right now reveals a panel of widgets. The widget panel is accessible when the phone is locked and unlocked, from a slide down menu and a slide over page. Given that I’m still trying to slide to unlock, I have brought up the right swipe widget page enough times that I presently loathe it.
The widget panel offers at a glance information from apps of your choice. This way, you don’t have to open four different apps to check your calendar, your to do list, the weather and the sports scores. I anticipate that I’ll appreciate the convenience of information aggregation when NBA is back in season and when I have multiple meetings or appointments in a day. For now, all I’m seeing on my widget page is news on the Vancouver housing crisis and Tony Parker’s off season training.
Message banners are wider with curved edges. For no logical reason, I find this disconcerting.
A topic of greater consequence than my dislike of grey rectangles is the changes made to Messages. The new updates include:
a blank pad, on which you can hand write messages
a series of text images that look like handwritten messages
a Digital Touch pad, from which you can send sketches, taps or the weird fireball you see above
a series of visual effects you can send along with your texts
a searchable GIF and video database, which includes the Donald Trump GIF also seen above
The ability to send sketches and short, handwritten messages is kind of cool. It adds a personal element to messaging, especially because the delivered message reenacts the writing process. I think ordinary text messages are sufficiently personal, but perhaps animated messages in my own shitty handwriting will take my friendships to the next level. The pre-written messages are for those with illegible writing or those who prefer to send tasteful store bought cards. Personally, I like to subject my friends to illegible writing and low grade artwork.
Why you would send a fireball instead of a text message, I cannot understand. I think it will only take a few updates before sending digital kisses becomes as passé as sending an e-card. Just because we have the technology to send e-cards doesn’t mean we need to send them. My mother described the digital heartbreak as “quite dramatic.” I see it as the perfect image to send your ex-lover to remind him or her that you are, in fact, too weird to date. If sending Digital Touches becomes the next communication breakthrough, I’ll declare us a doomed civilization.
With the ‘Send with effect’ function, you can send text bubbles with a slam effect (slam), in a larger format (loud), in a smaller format (gentle) or in tap-to-reveal invisible ink. More exciting than the bubble effects are the screen effects. You can send messages with the addition of full screen balloons, confetti, lasers, fireworks or a shooting star. The catch seems to be that the effects are only visible to those who have also upgraded to iOS 10.
The searchable GIF function in Messages is very similar to Facebook Messenger’s searchable GIF function. Anyone who has messaged me recently on Facebook should know that I love them but hate Messenger. I must be among the minority as someone who dislikes Facebook Messenger because Apple has added a few other comparable features. A message that consist solely of emojis is sent in a larger form without a surrounding text bubble, in the same way that it is sent on Facebook Messenger. This new format places far more emphasis than I intend on my emoji of choice. 💃🏼 Apple has added increased functions to Messages so they can take on as many of their direct and indirect competitors as possible. Apple has also added increased functions to appeal to a subset of a generation who use BuzzFeed as their browser homepage and communicate largely in memes.
The previous emoji update allowed users to choose skin tones on all of the emoji people. On iOS 10 Apple has added male and female variations for emoji, all of which are available in five skin tones plus gold. The sassy lady in pink now wears purple to reduce the gender-colour stereotype. She is displayed alongside a man in blue with the two figures in twin poses. You can now choose male or female police officers, construction workers, runners and weightlifters. All of these updates they made in response to accusations of sexism on the part of the original designers. Previously, the male emojis were depicted as athletes and professionals, while the female emojis were focused on appearance — the woman getting her hair cut — or traditionally female roles within a patriarchal society — the bride or the queen. All of the emoji additions were made in the name of political correctness, to reduce stereotypes and to make emojis more inclusive. Other new additions include the Pride flag and a water gun in place of the hand gun. Removing the hand gun is a case of political correctness gone awry: we won’t solve gun problems by pretending — even symbolically — that guns don’t exist. On a personal level, I’m unconcerned by the removal of the hand gun because the knife is my emoji weapon of choice. 🔪
You can now write a message and click on the emoji keyboard for automatic replacement options. The replacement process goes as follows:
The emoji-available words are automatically highlighted. Press the word to make your emoji selection.
This is the result of tapping to replace words with emojis. It may not make for the most articulate message but it does add some visual interest.
Apple, with its business model of planned obsolescence, will eventually make it so you have to download iOS 10 or allow your iPhone or iPad to become a relic. Eventually I will have to embrace iOS 10 as an unavoidable step in the technological march of progress. On the upside, I don’t have to adapt to the new iPhone 7. I have a 6s now and given the frequency with which I flip my technology, I won’t be due for an update until at least the iPhone 9. By then, the average smart phone might be capable of processing more than 2016’s most advanced computers. Alternatively, social and environmental decline might necessitate a return to Morse code. I’m no Apple pundit. I’m just speculating.
FOMO – or fear of missing out – is like a little bug that nips at your shoulders and ankles and keeps you from settling into a moment.
You are content with a night in or a weekend at home until FOMO creeps in to ask why you are all alone. The thing about FOMO is that she never barges in. She comes quietly on the nights when you start to feel a little lonely. She takes you by the hand and offers you a bit of nostalgia. She reminds you of the parties, the places and the friends you used to see. ‘Weren’t those good days?’ she says. ‘Don’t you wish you were doing that now?’ She asks you why you stopped seeing that nice guy from six months back. Never mind that he talked over you and wore suffocating body spray. FOMO has a short memory for those kinds of details.
FOMO loves the summertime. She loves music festivals you can’t afford and long weekend camping trips when you can’t get Friday off. You tell yourself you’re better off saving the money you might have spent on a festival weekend but FOMO just laughs. She has never been very good with numbers. FOMO makes you think that every summer has to be the best summer ever. If you’re not going to water parks and drinking rosé on sunlit patios, you’re not doing summer right, dammit. It’s something like fear of missing out that drives us to post perfectly cropped photos of Sunday brunch or toes in the sand. The photos are for posterity, to prove that you did not miss out.
FOMO is a malevolent optimist. Anytime you decline an invitation, she whispers that you might miss out on the best party ever. She is good company when you want to wallow in the misery of plans declined for work obligations. She can become mean-spirited when she senses you’re missing out because of your insecurities. You’re invited to a party but you won’t know many people attending. FOMO can push you out of your comfort zone and into a great night, or FOMO can cause you to berate yourself for not wanting to make an awkward entrance.
The decision to give into FOMO comes down to a battle between the fear of being perceived as less because you didn’t attend something significant and the fear of feeling uncomfortable when you do attend. There’s a difference between wanting to attend an event in and of itself and wanting to attend so you won’t miss out. With the latter mindset, you’re already anticipating a negative result. There’s a difference, too, between making an empowered or a necessary decision to decline an invitation and declining from a place of insecurity.
What FOMO doesn’t much account for is circumstance. Sometimes an event is worth taking a step outside your comfort zone. Even if you show up feeling awkward, you’re committed to enjoying whatever the night might bring. Once you pass the threshold and put your insecurities aside, it’s usually a good time. Other times, the party is too far away, the bar isn’t really your scene and you just aren’t up to a night of mingling with your acquaintance’s second cousin’s coworker.
When you decide not to go, don’t give in to the nips of FOMO that tell you to check Instagram to see all the fun you’ve missed. Or do check and be glad that your friends had fun and you had a relaxing night with your dog! If you see 117 or so snap stories from a friend’s night and start to feel like you’ve missed out, remember that the party can’t have been all that great if your friend spent the better part of the night on her phone.